Staying overnight in Oban allows an easing into the full tramping mode.

Why not take some early-morning photos in the dim light, and scoff a leisurely breakfast?

For the first time in forever I’m in full tourist mode, but that will switch in the next x number of days.

What x equals I’m not certain, but it might be somewhere around 18 days by my reckoning. That’s how much food I have aboard, but when you carry that much you can always eke out another day or two if you are prepared not to be totally replete at the end of every meal.

The morning was gloomy, no surprise there, with the prospect of some showers.

Yup, that’s Stewart Island/Rakiura.

My pack looks okay, but it will be a revelation when it meets my shoulders. The moment of truth.

As it turned out it wasn’t so much the physical as a mental load. Arriving at a hut where there were already plenty of boots to be seen on the verandah.

At least nine different footprints had been left on Maori Beach, the tide was coming in so there may have been more for the day.

The possibility of others coming the opposite direction from North Arm Hut.

I didn’t carry out a full headcount, but it was in the teens. Unfortunately I’m a few weeks too late for complete solitude.

Well, for the most part I have solitude while walking. That may just be sufficient.

Not everyone has filled in the hutbook, just the crew who came over on the ferry with me yesterday. That’s five. Then there is are two Kiwi women. And I count six in another group. One is Canadian, and the rest seem to be a South African family.

That’s the most I’ve had in a hut in recent times, well, except for the crew at Welcome Flat Hut, but in that case there were four bedrooms.

The two bedrooms here are strewn with people’s gear, and it seems all bottom bunks at least have bits and pieces everywhere.

I’ve taken a mattress, and will sleep on the veranda that has quite an overhang. That seems like a plan.

I’m hoping the others all either continue on the Rakiura Track, or just return to Oban.

I’m less keen on sharing once the days get harder. I don’t mind sliding into my sleeping bag by 7 pm.

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